Community Health Needs Assessment - What You Need To Know

CHNA focus should be on “Community Health,” not just “health care”

A non-profit hospital’s community health needs assessment (CHNA), a critical part of 501(r) regulations, can be a huge, lengthy and collaborative undertaking - but for good reason.  Item 2 on our 10 Step Checklist is “We have an implementation strategy in place to meet the CHNA needs.” Or, in other words, “Here’s what we’re going to do about it.”

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Your CHNA process is likely to turn up a decent number of health care needs, and as part of your reporting, the “Powers That Be” want to know how your facility plans to address them.  If your plan’s not looking all that robust, it’s important to remember that your assessment should be looking at overall community health, and not just health care.

Here are 3 things you need to know about the CHNA:

1. Don’t Overlook These Critical Social Health Concerns:
  • One often overlooked area of consideration is nutrition. Nonprofit hospitals may be more likely than other facilities to run into community health issues stemming from a lack of access to healthy foods. This growing epidemic  is something that needs to be addressed in your CHNA, along with your proposed methods of remedy.
  • Other health needs arising from social conditions may include housing-related challenges, social development concerns, environmental issues, and emergency preparedness. Presenting a hospital strategy outlining these issues falls right in line with the IRS’ recent efforts to demonstrate that overall community health also warrants spending, along with health care.
2. Facility Collaboration is 100% Acceptable:
  • Of course, working within the scope of your community might seem daunting, especially if your facility only services a small section of it. Maybe you feel your report could be more effective and better received if you worked with other facilities in the area, so don't hesitate to initiate collaboration. In fact, the guidelines blatantly state that two or more health facilities in the same area can collaborate on a joint CHNA report. These cooperative reports can be between several hospital facilities, or between hospital facilities and public health agencies.
  • Teamwork reporting makes sense in many circumstances. Facilities serving only neighborhoods may not be seeing the overall community picture. So, having several facilities work together allows for better assessment of the area. Of course, if an individual approach is more logical, each facility may prepare and submit supplementary information outlining their own hospital strategy, addressing localized needs within.

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3. Board Collaboration Accountability

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your nonprofit hospital plans to collaborate on a joint report with another facility, your hospital board (or similar authorized body) is required to accept the report and implementation strategy as their own. Any joint report will still have to comply with all CHNA procedures.

Preparation is Everything

Having a 501(r) and CHNA implementation strategy in place for your facility provides direction not only for your hospital staff, but also for the overall health of your community. Identifying and organization-wide understanding of health needs in your community is a critical first step, but having a documented, accepted and approved CHNA ensures your facility is working toward improvement and prevention

Still, even with a plan in place, executing the strategy is necessary to keep your tax-exempt status. Download our free offer, “10-Step Checklist To Maintain Your Tax Exempt Status,to help you better understand all the new 501r requirements, and to learn how VARO Healthcare can help you stay on track.

This is a 10-part series designed to support our 10-step checklist to better familiarize our readers on 501(r) tax exempt regulations. Please visit the first blog in this series: Get It Right the First Time -Your Community Health Needs Assessment. Be sure to sign up and receive our blog notification emails so that you don’t miss this 10-part series.


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